NCOA launches online tools to help educate seniors

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) has launched a series of online quizzes and tools aimed at educating seniors about how the Affordable Care Act affects their Medicare benefits, the growth of Medicare and the budget deficit.

Dubbed the “Straight Talk for Seniors on Health Reform” campaign, the move by NCOA comes in response to a recent poll conducted by Harris Interactive that shows broad disparities between the facts of health reform versus what seniors believe is true.

“Unfortunately, this finding comes as no surprise,” said James Firman, president and CEO of NCOA. “Everywhere I go, seniors tell me that what they really want is information they can understand and rely on, from an organization they trust, whose only agenda is helping them get the facts.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. NCOA is proud to launch our ‘Straight Talk’ campaign to continue to meet this need among the nation’s millions of older adults and their families and caregivers.”

The poll, conducted by Harris Interactive and supported by the Atlantic Philanthropies, showed widespread confusion about healthcare reform, even on the issues that most directly affected seniors. For example, only 22 percent of seniors polled knew the new law would not cut their basic Medicare benefits, compared with 42 percent who thought it would cut them and 37 percent who said they didn’t know if they would or wouldn’t cut benefits.

In addition, only 14 percent knew the new law is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to reduce the budget deficit while nearly half – 49 percent – believed the new law would increase the deficit.

The poll focused on 12 facts that NCOA identified as ones all seniors should know. Of the poll respondents, not a single one out of the 636 who responded knew the correct answers to all the factual questions.

“Seniors are certainly confused about the Affordable Care Act, but interestingly, many of them also overestimated their own degree of knowledge,” said David Krane of Harris Interactive, which conducted the poll.

“Those who said they were ‘very familiar’ or ‘familiar’ with the law only fared somewhat better than those who self-identified as ‘not familiar.’ In the ‘very familiar’ and ‘familiar’ categories, 65 percent got less than half the answers right, compared with 85 percent of the people who self-identified as ‘not familiar.’”

To combat this and to help seniors gat a better handle on the Affordable Care Act, NCOA launched its “Straight Talk” campaign at the Iona Senior Service Center here and will continue the campaing through the fall with additional town hall meeting and edication events.

NCOA is also making health reform educational materials available on its Web site. Here, seniors can take an interactive online “Straight Talk” quiz to test their knowledge of the law and learn more about it and find detailed poll results. Aging service professionals will find webinars online to prepare them to give “Straight Talk” presentations in their own communities.

“The health reform debate was long and complicated and often dominated by political spin that confused seniors,” said Firman. “NCOA is committed to helping seniors get the key facts and information they need to make smart, informed decisions about their own health care.

The fact that this poll revealed that so many people are misinformed or don’t know much about the new law means we have our work cut out for us with the ‘Straight Talk for Seniors on Health Reform’ campaign.”

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